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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Oct 29 2014 12:00pm
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I love this game. I love writing about it. Compiling lists about it. Evaluating it. Sometimes, I even play it. I'm an Accidental Player.

 Last summer, right after V4 came online, I wrote an article (this one) that had a double goal: tell the good folks at Wizards of the Coast exactly what their newborn client wasn't doing right; and tell the good folks who use such newborn client to try and be constructive critics rather than stubborn doomsayers. Two months later, how's the state of all things V4? Let's find out, point by point.

INTRODUCTION: A CIVIL WAR

 
Jonathan Quintin, STUDIOJQ

Going into V4, especially with that sudden announcement that sort of came out of the blue, I knew people would panic, and then would get angry. What I didn't expect was for people to get angry at each other. It's a subtle phenomenon, not really explicit, but it exists nonetheless. Sometimes you would enter a chat room, and immediately get greeted by some variation of "This client is the W-O-R-S-T, isn't it?" And if you happen not to actually agree, your choices become: starting to argue with the aggressive whiners; leave the room; or get ready to suffer through the same generic complaints born out of frustration, sometimes even just out of frustration for having just lost a game. "It's raining, blame the government!", it's a saying we have in Italy.

 

 Look, I don't have time to argue with you about V4, the government, or how you’re playing and learning skills are apparently not for you to improve. So I'm writing this, instead. To once again analyze objectively what works and what doesn't within the MTGO client, since generic, unsubstantiated complaints don't actually help anybody (they certainly didn't help the newbie I was trying to teach how to do something in a chat room that quickly devolved into a useless hate fest).

 

 In the latest State of the Program, while discussing that heinous Gamergate stuff, the great Pete Jahn explained how confronting each other's positions is done between reasonable people:

Here’s how debate works: one side presents a position, supported by evidence. The other side presents countervailing arguments, also supported by evidence. For example: Side A: “He’s not going too fast. The speed limit is 55.” Side B: “Yes, but the road is wet and the tires are worn.” Side A: “True, but..." and it continues, with both sides presenting assertions supported by relevant evidence. That’s a debate. What you cannot do is make stuff up — no “oh yeah, the speed limit is actually 2 mph, or 200 mph,” or “but the car is accompanied by invisible unicorns that push it back if it skids.” If there actually are unicorns, that could be relevant, but then your first responsibility is to demonstrate the existence of the unicorns. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof – not just your personal assertion.

 So, my goal is once again to tell apart, through evidence, the unicorns that exist from the unicorns that people's anger creates.

 There's one important point to make before any other observation, though: V3 was a terrible, terrible piece of software. You have to be fully aware of that, before painting it as a paradise lost in your memory. It was hideous. It was monstrous. It was something that we would typically mock as a relic from 1990s in a good day. I'm pretty sure that someone who started to play MTGO in the last three months would stop altogether should they ever roll back to V3, with its low-res graphics, ridiculously unmanageable collection binder, and no knowledge of what happened in the world of Magic in the last decade, like, say, the fact that there's a card type called "planeswalker" now.

 But here's all the evidence you need of why a return to V3 would be just a little less catastrophic than giving up and canceling MTGO altogether: I would never be here writing a list of things to fix in V3; nobody would, because V3 wasn't going to be fixed anymore, just patched for card bugs. We had stopped complaining because we knew that was just it, there was no real evolution anymore, so we were all just resigned to take the little we were given, and be okay with it. In short, V3 was a Neanderthal. And in case you aren't aware, Neanderthals weren't our progenitors. They were another species of Homo, a distinct branch that became an evolutionary dead-end and ended up extinct. So we weren't better off when we were Neanderthals, because a) we've never been Neanderthals to begin with, and b) maybe Neanderthals didn't have pollution and global warming, but they didn't even have the means to change where they were going.

 We can say that MTGO is a terrible gaming interface, one of the worst on the market, and that would be correct. But it was true of V3 as well. V3 was going to face extinction, eventually; V4 is what rose from its ashes. And V4 is objectively better for none other than one little reason: V4 is evolving. It already looks different from when it started, and that was, in terms of evolution, just yesterday. V4 has had more corrections in three months than V3 in the past three years. I constantly see V4 criticized for things that V3 wasn't doing right, too. Or asked to do things that V3 wasn't able to do at all. And that's great, because now we actually have the power to express those criticisms with the hope that things will change, rather than stand resigned watching the sun of evolution set on our gaming future.

 So I and those who value constructive criticism will keep telling Wizards what's right and what's wrong with V4. Some of the issues I noted in my last article have been already fixed (as documented below). So, speaking on behalf of all the constructive critics: You welcome.

PART 1: GENERAL / HOME

 
Jonathan Quintin, STUDIOJQ

 First of all, technical disclaimer: I'm currently testing MTGO (build 3.4.83.455, downloaded Wednesday, October 22, 2014) on a new machine, with the following setup:

  • Model: ASUS Desktop PC M11BB Series
  • Processor: AMD A8-6500 APU with Radeon HD Graphics 3.50 GHz
  • Installed RAM: 8 GB
  • Operating system: Windows 8.1, 64-bit
  • Screen: Philips FTV widescreen 32" HD 1360x768
  • Internet connection: Vodafone ADSL 2MBps

 Of course, since when I changed PC at the end of the summer, the MTGO performance grew up exponentially. We can safely say that MTGO requires a good hardware to properly run, and this is clearly not ideal for such an apparently basic piece of software. But it's an entirely different criticism that's beside the point of this article (part of the "Is Magic a rich people's hobby?" general debate). I'm actually sort of glad I had a strong motivation to update my system, because I couldn't possibly think to keep going with the 12-year-old, barely held together, recycled hardware I was using before. I had to spend €500 for the upgrade, but I'm happy with the result, and not just for MTGO's sake. Just like I'm happy I decided to connect it to my large LCD TV, which at first seemed an awkward proposition (TVs aren't generally as good as actual monitors), but that monster now gets me a seriously enhanced MTGO experience, among other advantages.

 ISSUES I HAD IN GENERAL / HOME:

  1. MTGO doesn't remember ALL my settings.
  2. Skins and customizations are missing (themes/colors of the interface, deck labels, playmats, etc.).
  3. Some notifications can't be turned off.
  4. The buddy list is unmanageable.

 WHAT THEY FIXED:

 None of the above yet. They did fix a connection issue where sometimes for some users (myself included) it would take 5 to 10 minutes to log in. You would get the "Welcome" immediately, and people would see you online, but you'd be stuck with the "Please be patient while Magic Online is loading" message forever. Patience be damned, it was obviously the most annoying thing in the universe (thanks God V4 rarely crashes / I don't play high-profile events). The issue emerged at some point during last month, but luckily it's now more or less solved. I still need to turn off anything that sucks large amounts of band, like P2P clients or YouTube uploads, before logging into MTGO, but it's no big deal. At least I'm able to log in in about 30 seconds now. Here's the evidence of it:

 I can also offer you my experience about crashing. Client crashes in V3 were a daily experience for me (and I had 8 GB of RAM back then, too); with V4, I think it happened once, twice tops, in three months. It's actually more likely for my Internet connection to go down (an issue my provider solved after my complaints, by the way.)

 Of the issues that remained unaddressed, the buddy list problem is particularly glaring, because those avatar icons are totally useless (I don't identify my buddies by avatar, as they routinely change them or use just the same as many others), making larger lists—that is, larger than a dozen names—very hard to browse through. Also, the "Add Buddy" button has to remain always accessible, rather than disappearing in the distance once you start scrolling down, because once I ascertained that the guy I was seeking out is NOT in my list, I'd like to be able to add them WITHOUT having to scroll back to the top. This is another of those instances where it seems pretty clear none of those who designed this client was actually a MTGO user, since they were obviously unaware of the most basic needs and behavior shared by longtime users.

 What the Home scene needs:

  • The option to have your Contacts displayed in some form of list view.
  • The option to increase the size of the Contacts window.
  • In general, customizations: the ad for the latest set may be inescapable, but the rest of what the Home scene features should be decided by each user, just like all contemporary client-like applications or sites do, from all Internet browsers to IMDb. Everything tries to let you choose what you want to see these days, since there's a lot to gain from collecting that information.
  • ADVANCED: Management of the buddy list, where you can rearrange the names into user-defined categories (the first of these distinctions would be bots/humans).
  • EVEN MORE ADVANCED: A proper CHAT scene, where you have the buddy list displayed as you wish, and you can manage it, write notes, and open various sessions. As Paul Leicht noted in his latest article, they can't leave the social aspect of MTGO for last. It's an important and valuable element. Of course, connection stability and game performance need to take priority, but only to a certain extent.

PART 2: COLLECTION

 
Jonathan Quintin, STUDIOJQ

 ISSUES I HAD WITH THE COLLECTION:

  1. There was some obscure stuff in the list view (unfathomable and/or unkillable elements.) — FIXED
  2. Adding cards you don't own to your deck or binder is harder than with cards you own.
  3. There's a chance deleted decks or binders come back after relog. — FIXED (sort of)
  4. The user-defined categories were a mess. — FIXED (sort of)
  5. Deck labels are mostly useless to begin with, but even more so if they don't actually cover all the most common deck identities.
  6. The preview cards had ugly, yellow highlighted text. — PARTIALLY FIXED
  7. The deck analysis page doesn't feature the average CMC.
  8. 0-cost cards are sorted before lands when deck is sorted by CMC. Split cards, too.
  9. The alphabetical sorting of the deck piles works in mysterious ways.
  10. Limited decks were automatically saved. — FIXED
  11. The client doesn't remember your setup after relog. — PARTIALLY FIXED
  12. The sideboard window features some pretty questionable, mostly useless text.

 WHAT THEY FIXED:

 So, three months later, half of these things have been addressed, some even definitely solved.

  • The card pool has been streamlined, the useless elements and the weird "X" at the end removed. Now you can turn on and off all the columns.
  • The issue with the deleted decks coming back from the grave is not as much solved as I learned how you're supposed to behave, in that you aren't supposed to do anything that affects what's stored on the server while offline. I should have expected as much from the beginning, even if nowadays a bit of synchronization is certainly not unheard of. You can still create and modify decks offline, and upon login the decks will synchronize with those on the server, but you better not try and delete anything while offline. As a rule of thumb, it's probably better to log in before doing anything, even if this creates a different kind of issue to me, because when I work on a deck, I am, indeed, WORKING; and I don't usually choose to work in a bar where people can constantly interrupt me to say hi. This problem could be effectively solved with an improvement I'll talk about in a later section, but for now, I'll keep building offline, trust the client to synchronize.
  • The user-defined categories have been acknowledged as deeply flawed, and removed until there will be time to properly implement them.
  • The yellow highlights on the preview cards are gone... except on planeswalkers! This is baffling, and I trust it'll be properly fixed soon. Look how bad Jace and poor Tamiyo look:

 

  • Now your account settings feature an option to tell the client not to save Limited decks automatically.
  • Some of the setup in the collection scene is remembered after relogging, most notably the way the collection pool's columns are organized. But it's not a guarantee. Sometimes, a change sticks, and sometimes you'll want to change it back but you'll be stuck with the same setup for several sessions in a row. Sometimes, instead of reopening the deck I had opened when I closed the client, it weirdly starts by opening the deck from two sessions before. Same for the categories. I couldn't figure out if there's a reason for this random behavior, like something you should do to help the client remember better. They should definitely make everything always stick, anyway.

 Of the unaddressed points, most were minor. The more widely lamented issue with the Collection scene remains the fact that it's NOT actually a Collection scene, it's only a deck editor. And while I'm totally in favor of a proper Collection scene to be introduced down the line (hopefully better than the goofy thing we had in V3, with those unreadable tags you had to click blindingly), I'm more interested in having a deck editor that works perfectly. Back in the time, before V3 was even discontinued, I had made a comparison between the two clients, deckbuilding-wise, with V4 proving to require twice the time to build the same list than V3. But what do you know, after some practice, the correct setup, and a few improvements, now I learned to build in V4 a lot quicker. The trick is to exploit the new client's strengths, first and foremost the super-fast search engine it packs. I don't regret not having the "search as you type" functionality anymore, because I realized I would need to type the same amount of characters than I have to type in the search window. Here's a new video where I build again that same deck (which is now Vintage!), taking half the time it took me back in May, therefore getting the performance on par with V3's.

 This is my current, optimized screen's setup for the editor, taking advantage of my giant 16:9 monitor:

 Particularly notable is that I stopped showing cards not in my collection as a default setup. I now prefer working with my collection until I get to the point where either I know I miss a card, or I want to perform an overall search to find the best options. I also mostly made peace with the position of the sideboard: when I want to analyze its content more accurately, I just drag it to the center of the screen; otherwise it stays semi-hidden to the right. I could actually increase the deck area's size, because I don't need to have so many rows in the card pool area, and when I make a query using the filters, I have to click and maximize the ones I need, anyway.

 Highlights of the current editor:

  • The search function is almost instantaneous, at least with the right hardware.
  • All the basic lands are always just a right-click away (the "Add Land to Deck" option).
  • Saving a deck is also quicker than it used to be (loading it is not but you can keep the decks you're currently using in the editor, and leave the others on your hard disk).
  • Adding different amounts of a card already in your deck is super-fast (once again, through right-clicking).
  • The function that automatically updates ALL the deck's cards with the version you actually own (right click on any card, "Update with versions in collection") is a blast. The client even recognizes when you have a card in your collection that doesn't match with the one you added in the deck, and treats it as a different error (green alert rather than yellow, meaning that it's immediately fixable).
  • All the Not Collectable stuff is permanently out of the way (that's something the client always successfully remembers).
  • This is sort of silly, but you can right-click on a legendary creature from a deck you labeled (or was recognized as) Commander, and you'll get the "Assign as Commander" option. This is the sort of cool little touches that a modern client should aim to consistently deliver.
  • In general, the cards look gorgeously hi-res, and you can zoom on them or resize them with no loss in quality. I assume this is one of the aspects that make the client so resource-intensive, but now that I can afford it, I wouldn't have it otherwise.

 What the Collection scene needs:

  • Boolean operators for the search. Truth be told, Gatherer is still the way to go when you need to perform a complex search, but the operators have to come back for this to feel like a pro editor.
  • The option to disable the autosave. It's not that bad once you start getting used to save the decks on your hard disk anyway (it's quick and easy to do, after all). But there's no need to have it as a forced option, if not to spare the designers the effort of finding some room for a "save" button (not that the Collection scene is not overcrowded as it is, but c'mon). And there's the occasional issue where you awkwardly clicked away a card and didn't notice what it was. It happened to me for a Commander deck I didn't yet save. It took me a lot to figure out what I had unwillingly removed. So annoying!
  • Being allowed to add cards to the deck via double click even if you don't currently own the cards.
  • Deck labels that make more sense (all the possible color identities, for one).
  • Improvements on the filters, possibly through a dedicated pop-up screen that comes up on request. As it is now, finding the desired set or subtype among dozens or hundreds of choices takes a LOT of scrolling, and within a small area of the screen.
  • Every time you open a deck, the default sorting should always be by CMC.
  • The default sorting for the card pool should be by name, instead. I can't even recognize what sorting the client gives me by default. It starts with the promos, and then it's random?
  • On the other hand, the Trade Binder should always be sorted by card view, not pile. Tickets are visualized badly and can end up hidden behind other cards in pile view. All these sorting issues should be easily solved IF THE DAMN CLIENT REMEMBERED ALL YOUR SETTINGS, not just a few of them. It's true that you don't require more than a fraction of second to click on, say, the NAME column, and have everything sorted that way. But when you have to do it every single time for no reason, you start feeling like you're losing precious chunks of your life.
  • Sorting has become capricious, anyway: I often need to click multiple times on one of the deck sorting options to make it happen (you can see this trouble in action at the end of the deckbuilding video above, when I have to try several times to convince the client to sort the deck like I asked). This needs to be fixed asap.
  • Long deck names, which are currently truncated in the folders, should be properly displayed (through reduced font, line wrap, etc.). Or else, enforce a limit of characters during labeling.
  • ADVANCED: The option to open two or more decks at once, transfer cards between them. It needs floating windows, though.
  • EVEN MORE ADVANCED: The option to mark cards as "favorite" or something of the sort, to better retrieve them later. I know I can create a "Favorite" binder and put the cards there, but it's not really the same function, as I can't just mark a card while I'm browsing the pool, I'd be forced to close the current deck I'm working on and open the binder. It's what makes the binders not very useful in general.
  • EXTREMELY ADVANCED: Rename the Collection "Deck Editor" and create a real Collection scene.

 By the way, I don't find the new option to apply filters on the deck particularly useful (I could maybe use it on Commander decks, or other unusually large decks), but I guess it's important for traders, since it affects the Trade Binder, too. Of course, should the deck editor and the collection part their ways again in future, the Trade Binder would have to go with the latter.

PART 3: PLAY LOBBY

 I had a couple issues with the Play Lobby, none of which were addressed, but they weren't particularly relevant (I even think the first, about the "open slots" indication persisting on the game tables, was just about refreshing the play room, which is something the client doesn't do on its own, so you just have to click somewhere, for instance on the bar that re-sorts the games).

 I have some new issues to add, though.

  1. The options that are given when you create a table (or when you filter the games in a room to find the one you want) allow for multiple choices. This is the same style of filtering from the Collection scene, and has some logic flaws: for instance, you can choose to enable the "No Watchers" option, the "Allow Watchers" option, both, or neither. It should be mutually exclusive. What happens if you choose both and create a table, anyway? Is the table watchable or not? I didn't check, and I assume one of the options just have priority on the other, and one of the options is the default if none is chosen, but why they have to present the choice this way? Why am I allowed to make a table that's simultaneously 1-on-1 and multiplayer? It's for the sake of filtering out what you don't want, I guess, and it's mostly harmless, but it's still awkward.
  2. When a player joins the table you're hosting, you can't talk to them, since the chat window only becomes active once the game starts. This way, you can't tell them they joined the wrong table, which is a typical occurrence in a Player Run Events.
  3. When you write in the Comments section for a table, sometimes the line isn't confirmed if you don't click elsewhere (sort of like if you were hitting "enter"). In those cases, if you fail to do that, your last entered comment is used.

 What the Play Lobby scene needs:

  • Mostly, to remember ALL your settings, so you don't have to re-enter them if you keep playing the same format in the same room. I'd also like something like "hide unused formats", so if you don't ever play Momir or Block Constructed, you can take them off the list. Alternatively, keep the formats and options you use the most at the top. They implemented a "Recent Play Choices" (the button at the top of the left column), which is nice, but can be further improved, especially because for some reason it doesn't remember the Match Options you used.
  • I'd say the Lobby would benefit from the chance of resizing the various areas, but I gather they need to promote their tournaments, so that zone is probably untouchable.

PART 4: TRADE

 ISSUES I HAD WITH THE TRADE:

  1. You can't tell how many cards you already own when trading in list view.
  2. Moving massive quantities of cards is a pain.
  3. There's a limit of 50,000 cards in the Trade Binder.
  4. The previous trade partners list is cool but unmanageable.
  5. The display style of the trade list is the same as the Collection, which makes no real sense.

 WHAT THEY FIXED:

 Nothing of the above, as far as I know. I'm not a very committed trader, though, so I may have missed some development in those departments. I mostly wish for the Trade scene to have a way to manage the Trade Partners list, because that's a wasted resource right now. We'd need to be able to organize them somehow, keeping only the ones we're interested in trading with again. Hell, let us put them in alphabetical list at least!

 This said, I respect the work of professional traders and I'm inclined to support any need they might have that I'm not in the position to detect from my standing point. I mostly find the trade experience okay for my need. I learned to bypass the issue #1 in that list (along with the #5, essentially) by using the card view for my trades, which is something the client fortunately remembers, and my new PC configuration is powerful enough to sustain (the old computer was too slow to allow me to remotely browse through thousands of images). Here's an example of a quick and clean trade with a MTGO Traders bot. Notice the automatic card view and chat window position, and the fact that I found the bot among my previous trade partners.

 What the Trade scene needs:

  • The chance to add users directly to the Trade Partners list, not the buddies.
  • The option to manage the Trade Partners list, delete entries at the very least.
  • The number of currently owned cards should appear in the "You Will Receive" window, to make sure you're taking the right version to complete your playset.
  • And of course, the fixing for all the issues listed above.

 In the abovementioned State of the Program, Pete also laments a bug where the option to "add all but 4" to the Trade Binder didn't actually leave 4 copies behind. I didn't experience it (this is actually The Issue: how is it possible for bugs to only affect certain players?!), and if that bug exists, it should be fixed pronto, as it's the case for many other known bugs. What I'm discussing here are functional flaws, though, more than blatant malfunctions that automatically go on a To Fix list once reported.

PART 5: CHAT

 
Jonathan Quintin, STUDIOJQ

 ISSUES I HAD WITH THE CHAT:

  1. The copy & paste function was missing. — FIXED
  2. You had no way to select the text you were typing. — FIXED
  3. The client produces in-game notifications that cover the typing area if you have the chat docked on the right. You can't disable them.
  4. The flashing alerts when someone types in a chat you're not currently watching aren't very conspicuous. — FIXED (sort of)
  5. When someone opens a chat with you and then logs off before you can get there, you have to perform an annoying routine (use the chat menu to manually open a chat of your own with that username) to read the message/kill the lingering flashing alert.
  6. The stock phrases are missing ("Hello and good luck", "Good game", etc.)
  7. In-chat card links are missing.

 WHAT THEY FIXED:

  • Select, copy and paste have been implemented. No comment on how it's even possible they didn't think these functionalities were needed from the start.
  • I'm not exactly sure the flashing alerts are more visible now, or if it's just that I got used to detect them. Either way, they work for me, and I actually appreciate them being so discreet.

 As I mentioned in a comment to Paul's article, I had found a good way to experience the chat, especially in-game, and it was to dock the chat window at the bottom of the screen. That way, once again thanks to my big 16:9 monitor, I was able to see all my chat tabs horizontally, each with its own flashing alert, preventing me to have to go back and forth between game scene and the rest of the client, trying to divine which of the open chats the flashing arrows are pointing to (I typically have to review all of them, which is why I keep closing chat windows with people I'm not actually engaged in a conversation with. Cue more antisocial behavior).

 So, what happened to that solution? They simply took that option away, without an explanation. Now you're left with a choice of left and right for the docking, no more top or bottom. And it's really a shame because it was actually perfectly in tune with the horizontal flow of the client. I tried the left side, to dribble the pesky in-game notification over the typing area, but I can't get used to it, it changes the balance of my game screen to the right (rather than have it surrounded by same-size columns, like a theatre stage), it really messes with my perception and my instincts.

 Highlights of the current chat:

  • In-game log and chat are finally separated.
  • The stupid, unkillable black box that used to appear in V3 to alert you of the fact that someone was writing in a chat you weren't monitoring is gone.
  • You don't get automatically relocated to an active chat anymore.

 What the chat needs:

  • Bring back the offline messaging! Now it's impossible to communicate with people you don't stumble upon online! (More antisocial behavior).
  • Bring back the card links!
  • Bring back the docking at the top or bottom!
  • Allow for the notification "Playername sent you a message" to be disabled.
  • The "close chat" button (the "X" at the corner of each chat window) should NEVER disappear. Instead it does when you shrink the chat column too much.
  • Chat timestamps should feature the date, not just the time. Or at least the date should be printed at the end of a session, like V3 used to do. It's currently impossible to tell apart messages from right now and messages from the last time you were logged in, especially if it was around the same time of the day.
  • Finally, and as much as this may seem to go against the pleas to enhance the social side of the client, I think it's time for an invisible mode to be implemented. Look, I love you folks, but sometimes I'm just working on something, or I'm just not in the mood, or I want to be left to my devices while goldfishing or trading. Not allowing an invisible mode actually causes less social interactions, because the third time someone catches me at the wrong time and I have to tell them, "Not now", they might get annoyed. Switching to invisible mode when you want to be alone is the correct way to respect both yourself and your community. Besides, it's a freaking basic option of every chat system, ever.

 I'll talk more about the in-game chat when I'll delve into the game scene... in the next installment! (This has already become way too long, and the game issues need a more dedicated focus, anyway).

 Until then, thanks for reading, don't lose hope, stop complaining and take the latest Satisfaction Survey, instead. We need actions, not whinings!

 

18 Comments

Just a little feedback by gimmie at Wed, 10/29/2014 - 13:10
gimmie's picture

First off, thank you for taking the time to build the list and follow up on the progress of things.

Just a couple of things I didn't see and would like added.

1) Multiplayer is still horrid.
2) The client still has the memory leak. If you play over a certain length of time you have to restart the client. It will lag and become unresponsive.
3) I can't sort games based on my buddy list. This is very irritating as sometimes I just want to watch a game.

Finally, why is someone at Wizards not doing this same thing???? Make a list of things they acknowledge as problems and set a priority to them. The most annoying thing about providing Wizards with feedback is the complete unresponsiveness on their part.

1) Multiplayer will be by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 10/30/2014 - 05:34
Kumagoro42's picture

1) Multiplayer will be discussed in the second part, along with 1v1 play. I've videos ready. In short, I honestly don't get where the complaints about multiplayer come, compared to V3. It's the same or better.

2) "If you play over a certain length of time you have to restart the client." Never happened to me (and I run tournaments so I stay logged in with multiple windows open for many hours in a row), so it can't be an absolute truth. It's of course something related to each user's hardware. Making the software work on lesser machines is a reasonable request, but it's a different request.

3) If you sort by Only My Buddies, it should in theory give you all the tables in that room with your buddies involved, including the ones already running. I didn't check if it gives you only those where both the players are buddies, though. Those filters need work for sure.

1) I vehemently disagree that by Leviathan at Thu, 10/30/2014 - 12:38
Leviathan's picture

1) I vehemently disagree that multiplayer is "the same or better." Making it so that you cannot have each of the players share an equal amount of space is extremely frustrating. If you are playing against 3 players, those 3 are squished in the top half of the screen, which means a lot of minimizing/enlarging to see what is going on, which should be completely unnecessary. In Commander games battlefield space is at a premium since there can be numerous permanents. In v.3, this only became an issue when someone had numerous tokens out, and you had to scroll their windows up and down to make sure you didn't miss an important permanent in play. Now, anytime there are more than 4 permanents the cards are shrunk down so that I have difficulty reading them. This get exponentially worse when more players are involved.

I don't have a dual screen set up, so I have to dock the chat in order to see what is going on. Again, this cuts away from precious battlefield space. What I would really like to do is undock the chat, make the chat box as small as possible, then let it float in the battlefield where I want it. Unfortunately due to the windows based version of the chat, it would consistently be "put behind" and hidden every time I tried to do this. I would speculate that problems with the chat box have also decreased the social interactions in games, which is also extremely disappointing.

I still have great difficulty putting decks together (tried again the other night to update an old deck), but that is likely because I don't use it often enough.

Replays for multipalyer games don't work at all. This really hurts my ability to make the articles I want. The other bugs are annoying, but I trust that they will eventually get those fixed. You do a good job of pointing out various issues and flaws, as well as improvements in the system. It's pretty thorough. Good on you for making this article.

On a more personal note, I just don't enjoy playing Commander on MTGO anymore. I've pretty much stopped playing (a few of my regular playing buddies have as well), and therefore stopped writing/making vids. I was playing on MTGO during v.2, survived that and the subsequent transitions to v.3. I tried to give v.4 a chance. It just makes me sad.

We'll talk at length about it by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 10/30/2014 - 12:49
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We'll talk at length about it in the next article. My monitor is possibly spoiling me, because I'm just fine looking at the cards, and I enjoy very very much tapping all lands together, attacking with all the creatures, stacking all the tokens. These are three things right there that are more important for Commander than for any other format, where you don't typically end with 20 lands and 300 tokens in play.

A different layout of the 4-man table is probably behind the corner (as the stupid "all opponents but 1 start minimized" is probably going away), and the chat issues are to be addressed everywhere.

But don't give up, Mike. You have a responsibility. If you give up, there's a voice less telling WotC what they're doing wrong. They're like clueless children! They are! I'm not saying they're not. As I noted, these are people who clearly never used MTGO much, or they wouldn't make such blatant bad calls.

But it's all in flux, and this is a crucial time. We're essentially all part of a giant open playtesting session. Instead of hiring playtesters, or having the program go dark for a few months, they're making us play with this incomplete version. We need serious, reasonable, responsible people playing the game now more than ever.

1) You can feel free to by gimmie at Thu, 10/30/2014 - 13:05
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1) You can feel free to disagree about multiplayer, but there are MANY people that are very frustrated by the setup. Just compare the number of multiplayer games running at any time with what used to be going.

2) When I load the client, it uses between 600mb to 700mb of RAM. After three hours this morning it was up to 1.8gb. This is when it starts to lag and crash. I have 8gb of memory, so it hasn't used up all the memory on my system.

3) It does not work.

http://company.wizards.com/ab by Hearts at Wed, 10/29/2014 - 14:18
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http://company.wizards.com/about/careers

Hiring 37 new full positions ? Massive expansion ?

How many are on average employed in that company (like, last 5-10 years) ?
My guess would be less than a 100, but I could be very wrong.
If 500+ people then perhaps the expansion isnt that big afterall.
But again, I have never seen or checked any actual employment numbers for that company.

"As of 2008, the company employs over 300 people - wikipedia."

37 positions within a month of perhaps 350 employed, its big.

I thought the same thing the by longtimegone at Wed, 10/29/2014 - 22:34
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I thought the same thing the last time I saw that, but they just have a big list of job postings that regularly gets reposted.

Kind of like advertising and by Hearts at Thu, 10/30/2014 - 07:12
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Kind of like advertising and see who applies for a job ? If someone very qualified (or overqualified) comes along he will be hired making the company run with X+1 employed people.

Its kind of like a bunch of 5 year olds playing in the sand, and if a 7 year old they like comes along he can play with them.

One irritating error (I just by Rerepete at Wed, 10/29/2014 - 14:42
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One irritating error (I just figured out what is happening) should be fixed in play lobby:

When I decide to play a limited tournament, I filter to the type of tourney I am interested in (eg KTKx3) After the tourney, I usually go play some casual games. When I log back in it puts me in the JFF room, but the games listed "remembers" the filter from the limited tourney room and applies it to the constructed open play room. The fix is to go back to limited room and uncheck the filter.

Yeah it also puts that junk by Paul Leicht at Wed, 10/29/2014 - 23:08
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Yeah it also puts that junk in the JuFF field even if you never joined a draft queue. :) It's been happening since the "fix" update so I expect next fix they may sort it out.

Really excellent exposition by Paul Leicht at Wed, 10/29/2014 - 19:42
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5

Really excellent exposition of the client's gems and flaws. I can see this took you a lot of work to do and it is painstakingly detailed. Something I had been meaning to get to more thoroughly and yet here you have gone and done the work. So, thank you. And thanks for the shout out.

I truly think we must move forward. Being stuck in the past is just a huge waste of effort, time, and emotion. I do get riled and quickly when the client behaves badly but I have also learned to accept some of the problems as temporary and take a breath before frightening my gf with an utterance of frustration. It really is a divisive issue and people need to put some of this into perspective and stop randomly lashing out at those who disagree with them. (Ala #gamergate.)

And mostly I agree with your assessments. I think for v4 to be acceptable to most people it would need a few major changes and a lot of minor ones.

We could probably debate the exact details of what needs to be done but that is precisely why we need options. Screw "Options Bloat"! I hate when I hear explanations like that (which they supplied when initially criticized for not providing options) for why features are not implemented. As if one particular design guideline is suddenly a gospel for all time. Sure it is a good idea to trim parts of your code that do little and add much mess but this is not that. Clearly the design of V4 needs some rethinking.

Options would solve some of these issues. Let those who want undocked windows have them but not at the expense of the rest of the users. Make that an option. Also make sure the client respects the decision both ways. Let those who want grey backgrounds or white backgrounds have them. Let us choose the styles that we like.

Give us more ways to categorize our contacts as you brilliantly suggested with the Trading partners idea. (I can't believe I didn't think of that. :D) There are a lot of changes just from reading through your article that could be implemented with just a little thought and effort. The question is how do we motivate WOTC to do so? Their monolithic silence on such matters does not help make the situation more scrutable unfortunately.

"We must move forward. Being by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 10/30/2014 - 05:54
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"We must move forward. Being stuck in the past is just a huge waste of effort, time, and emotion."

Can we have this framed in the home page, in golden, fiery letters?

"Let those who want grey backgrounds or white backgrounds have them."

This is not just a legitimate request, it should be common commercial sense. There are socioeconomics principles behind this. In short, "Let the users choose their background = $$$"

I don't know that they're really that silent. There are acknowledgments on the forums once in a while. They certainly can't answer every single complaint, as there's about a thousand of them each day, and a good chunk of those are unreasonable or plain wrong, which is something we should fight just as much as the client's flaws, because they indirectly contribute to the client's flaws remaining unsolved.

WotC is the branch of a multi billion dollar corporation, after all. I don't frequent many corporate forums, but I can't imagine Toyota or Philips addressing any customer complaint online on a daily basis (maybe Apple does).

I think V4 is the best thing that happened to MTGO, precisely because it reopened the dialogue. It reopened the option to ask, and to see things fixed. We must face it, V3 was dead. Did I wish there was an invisible mode in V3? Sure I did. But I knew there was no point in asking, since V3 wasn't going to add anything more. Now everything is in play again. It's an opportunity we shouldn't waste.

Everything fine and by Bartimäus at Thu, 10/30/2014 - 07:27
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Everything fine and reasonable - however, despite all this well-thought reasoning I fear the game is slowly dying anyway. Why? Because it's written on the wall: parts of the community are gone, flagging formats are virtually dead or dying, the whole setup in all their tiny fractions render the playing experience much less fun than it's used to be (individual self-enforcing view from someone trying to get into a love affair with the client all day since its invention ), even mtgo positive souls like Pete is coerced by experience to write installments like the one you cited...
Do not get me wrong, I hope my fear is not justified, I appreciate your effort to get on the positive side of matters and hope that the client evolve into a gorgeous bird so that nobody wants to play with real people and paper cards due to all it's gloriousness (not serious with last aspect, of course)- on my side of the screen the joy of logging in decreases day by day and are only left alive due to VMA and the great limited environment.

"parts of the community are by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 10/30/2014 - 12:30
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"parts of the community are gone"

On what you base this statement, exactly? Look, I'm a pragmatist (when I need to), so I want data. I know how easy it is to mistake one's personal experience with some universal truth.
Do you have access to data pertaining the number of people who quit MTGO after V4, and the number of people who quit BECAUSE of V4? (People used to routinely quit — and sometimes routinely come back — during the V3 era, too. I could probably list a hundred names of players I personally saw quit during V3).

I don't have those data, so I can just look around and deduce some data by observation. I see drafts firing at uncanny speed and in massive quantity for the latest sets. I see my own PREs hitting the same attendance level they used to do in V3, in some cases more. I see several new players showing up at those PREs. I see card prices changing more and more rapidly, which is a symptom of a growing economy. I see the number of hits on articles about MTGO, like those on this very site, not going down a bit. I see popular bots being still very hard to access.
How are these clues of a dying environment?

"flagging formats are virtually dead or dying"

Which ones? You mean Vintage?
Honest question: would Vintage's destiny have been any different under V3?

"the whole setup in all their tiny fractions render the playing experience much less fun than it's used to be"

Well, not for me, no.
Certainly not for all the new players that never even experienced V3 (I would like to make them — and everyone else — try V3 after they played for one or two years with V4. That would be a very interesting experiment indeed).

I actually welcome the new generation of players, if only because when they will be the majority, I will finally stop hearing rants about the good days of yore. Until the release of V5, that is.

It might be a wrong by Bartimäus at Thu, 10/30/2014 - 16:34
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It might be a wrong assessment as my English is not good enough to get nuances well but I get the impression my posting annoys you; that my words belongs to the rant category soon be gone substituted by the better People to come? If so I am a bit unsure what raised it as no offence intended but anyway some answers to the raised points: I am not claiming any universal truth, just reported my individual experience/assessment: e.g following the switch I played two 100Singleton games and one prismatic simply because I found no games whereas I used to play several per day before. I was not referring to vintage but my personal assessment would be that we would have a vivid but small Community playing and enjoying it- but no proof available, sy. Playing experience is individual- not all people not liking it are not able to take changes, or is it completely off to not enjoying cracking a fetch in prismatic in V4. I fully stand by your view that limited is in great shape- i enjoy it myself but that's only One Part of game. To be honest I have no clue what is driving the secondary market, as I did not see the respective action in casual and constructed. Wouldn't you expect to see your Events grow with all the activity in in Limited?
Anyway, I enjoy your articles and wealth of Knowledge in the fantastic/historic/../context and hope you are correct and I am Off. I simply miss the joy of playing and deckbuilding, individally and without a Master thesis on the subject.

No, no, it wasn't meant to by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 10/30/2014 - 18:17
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No, no, it wasn't meant to say you! Sorry if I let you think that (I'm not a native English speaker myself!)

It's just that I really believe in what Paul said above, both when Magic and life are concerned: the past is the past, the future is where we'll live. And we should, we must make our future better.

Thanx - that is good to know by Bartimäus at Fri, 10/31/2014 - 01:51
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Thanx - that is good to know as I feared to somehow missed my intention.

If I was to make a list of by Rerepete at Thu, 10/30/2014 - 13:04
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If I was to make a list of features I'd like to see, topping that list would be the ability to have several formats check boxed (rather than radio buttoned and getting rid of the required deck) and when you click on a game, it would bring up a list of your saved decks for that format, with the last one used being selected by default.